Not What We Are Learning, But How: A Look Into Inquiry-Based Learning


What is the teacher’s role in a 21st century classroom? Is it to directly teach and relay information, or is it facilitate learning that promotes curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration? Well, you might be surprised to hear it’s a bit of both. I recently interviewed a good friend of mine, Courtney Burns, so that she could share her experience and knowledge with inquiry-based learning, “a form of active learning that starts by posing questions, problems or scenarios.” She is an expert at promoting curiosity and engagement through hands-on and project based learning in her classroom. In the interview, you will learn more about how this type of teaching “emphasizes the student’s role in the learning process.” If you are unsure how it works, how it benefits your students, or where to start, this interview is a must watch! You will begin to see that the process of inquiry is to “ask questions, reflect, and move forward,” as Courtney says. Before you watch the interview about inquiry-based learning, you can read some of the important themes and discussion points that I took away from the conversation with Courtney.

What is Inquiry-Based Learning?

  • It is child centred, honours the child’s previous knowledge, nurtures a child’s natural ability to be curious, and allows children to take ownership over the learning process.
  • Instead of just memorizing facts, it allows students to develop skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, collaboration, communication, and citizenship.
  • The teacher’s role in inquiry is to guide and facilitate.
  • The emphasis is not what we are learning, but how we are learning.

What are the Benefits to Inquiry-Based Learning?

  • It enhances the learning experience, teaches them life skills, fosters curiosity and life long learning, and increases engagement.
  • The intention is to deepen a student’s understanding of topics so that it’s not just memorizing facts.
  • It creates a love of learning and a passion to ask questions and gain knowledge.
  • Students gain citizenship skills and learn how to be active participants in their community.

How Does Inquiry-Based Learning Work?

  • It can be led by the teacher, but as the process continues, the ownership is given to the students.
  • The misconception about inquiry is that there is no direct teaching, but rather, direct teaching is needed for certain explorations and lessons.
  • The teacher can bring in provocations, which are videos, pictures, or items that they can touch to spark curiosity.
  • The teacher can also facilitate “Book Browses”, which are times to explore books that pertain to a certain topic of exploration.
  • Teachers pose questions, such as “What do you see? What do you notice? What are you wondering?”
  • Teachers also ask… “Where can we go with our questions? Where can we look for our answers? Who do we ask? Where do we find information?”
  • When students are done exploring and finding answers, they share what they find through reflections, documentation, or a “Knowledge Building Circle”, which is a time to share with their classmates.
  • After students are done researching and exploring, ask students “How can we share what we’ve learned here? How can we share our learning now and be the experts on this?”

Tools Used in Inquiry-Based Learning

  • Camera: take photos to document the process, share findings, and reflect.
  • Projector: type up what students are sharing in the Knowledge Building Circle in real time so that they know “what they’re saying and what they’re thinking has value.”
  • Online Research Tools: Cross reference and search for answers. Pebble Go is a safe online researching tool that students can use in the inquiry process.

Carrying on the Conversation

If you’re familiar with inquiry-based learning, what are some of the benefits you notice? What are some of your favourite technology tools to use in the inquiry process and reflection? If you’re not familiar with inquiry-based learning, check out the conversation below!

One thought on “Not What We Are Learning, But How: A Look Into Inquiry-Based Learning

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.